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Why is my dog limping from his back legs?

Jack Russell dog getting back leg checked
© Shutterstock

Limping or lameness in a dog can be the result of several medical problems. If your dog is limping on just her back legs, this could be due to abnormal anatomy or an injury.

By Dawn Parrish

Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:51

Limping or Lameness

The symptoms of these conditions can certainly be worse at different times of the day. Probably first thing when your dog rises, and last thing before bedtime. Perhaps after she has taken vigorous exercise or possibly even just after a snooze.

Symptoms of dog limping on back legs only

There are several presenting signs if your dog is suffering from discomfort due to lameness in her rear legs. Things to look out for are:

  • Refusing to bear weight on injured leg or legs 
  • Not being able to walk or to run without limping
  • Difficulty jumping into the car, or when walking up or down the stairs
  • General symptoms of pain and discomfort
  • Loss of muscle mass on the problematic limb
  • Begins to walk slower than usual
  • Not putting the pad of her paw into direct contact with the floor
  • Any abnormality or swelling of the joints

Causes why dogs limp on their back legs

Like humans, a dog will limp for many reasons. However, your dog cannot explain to you where the pain is, or what happened to cause the discomfort. As a responsible owner, it’s up to you to try to figure it out. Canine lameness, the medical term, is one of the most common reasons why a dog will visit the Vet’s surgery. Here are several causes why your dog may suddenly begin to limp.

Too much exercise

If your dog exerts herself too much during a run in the park or a play session, her muscles may be sore. She may find it difficult to rise from her bed without limping on her back legs.

Does your dog have problems with his toe nails© Pixabay

Maybe something sticking in her paw

Remember that your dog doesn’t wear shoes, so it’s very easy for her to stand on a foreign object outside. If your dog holds up her foot or begins to limp on her back leg, she might have a lump of gravel or a thorn in her pad.

Problems with toenails causing a dog to limp

If your pet doesn’t do much walking on the concrete ground, chances are that one of her toenails is ingrown. An overgrown toenail might dig into her skin causing pain. Likewise, if she has just come back from the grooming parlour, perhaps her nails have been cut too short.

Injury can cause lameness and limping in a dog

If your dog is very active, there is a chance that she may have strained or sprained her back leg. This is probably the case if the limping on the back legs begins suddenly. This lameness may subside in one or two days.

Hip Dysplasia

First of all, this is a common condition in canines. Both elbow and hip dysplasia will result in a lame dog. A hereditary disease where the joint loosens and is very painful.  Medical treatment is usually required.

Hip dysplasia or fracture©Shutterstock

Broken leg or fracture is a reason for back leg limping in your dog

It’s not always possible for a human to spot a broken bone without a medical assessment and X-ray. If your dog suddenly begins to limp on her back legs and doesn’t want to bear any weight, check the affected limb.

Care for your lame dog

Of course, these are just a few of the different medical conditions that can make your dog limp. The first thing you should do is to try and spot where the pain affects her. Observe her as she walks around. Likewise, notice which limb she won’t put onto the ground. Now begin to examine the leg that is sore. Check out one of her legs that appears to be fine first, then you have something to compare with. See how she responds to your pressure and touch. Examine her feet pads, toes and all of her joints and limbs.

Treatment for a dog limping on her back legs

Finally, you can give your dog the treatment she needs, once you have discovered the cause of the lameness. If there is any heavy bleeding, swelling or possibility of a fracture, some medical intervention is needed. Your next priority is to make her as comfortable as you can to reduce the pain. A compress, either hot or cold as needed, will probably reduce some of the inflammation and swelling. Restricting the movement, and as much rest as possible over the next few days should help provide some improvement.

Don’t assume that because your dog doesn’t bark or whine, or likewise, continues to move around, that she isn’t in pain. In normal circumstances, it takes a huge amount of discomfort for your dog to protest and alert you to her limp.